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Professor of Art History
Contact Info

bolivar.jpg wounds.jpg The Art of Fernand Leger book cover    
  • Ph.D., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • M.A., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • J.D., Loyola Law School, Los Angeles
  • B.A., Duke University, Durham, N.C.
Areas of Expertise
  • Visual culture (fine arts, film, photography) in the 19th and 20th centuries
  • French Modernism during World War I and after
  • Trauma & disability studies
  • Decolonial and anticolonial critiques
  • Gender and sexuality studies

Dr. Shanahan’s current research focuses on two arenas: first, the intersections of war trauma and colonial trauma in the representation and self-representation of the French colonial soldier and worker during and after World War I; and second, the nexus between the arts and psychiatry in France during and after World War I, such as in the photography of French police psychiatrist Gaëtan Gatian de Clérambault. This research has been supported by a National Endowment for the Humanities summer seminar in 2014, a Clark Art Institute award in fall 2015, and a Fulbright Scholar award to France in 2017. This research motivated her co-curated exhibition, Colonial Wounds / Postcolonial Repair (Duke Hall Gallery of Fine Art, March-April 2019) and the exhibition catalog published by University of Virginia Press.

Her forthcoming book, Machine Modernism, Masculinity, and the Trauma of War: The Art of Fernand Léger (Pennsylvania State University Press, May 2024), demythifies a leading French modernist and a central figure of Cubism and the utopian machine aesthetic era in the 1920s. Her research draws upon trauma studies, memory studies, and the history of psychiatry to explain the anxieties and paradoxes of Léger’s art and era in the wake of World War I and in the context of subsequent historical traumas.

Her co-edited collection, Simón Bolívar: Travels and Transformations of a Cultural Icon (University Press of Florida, 2016), analyzes Bolívar as a contested cultural symbol of national identity and revolutionary politics. The book has been positively received by the College Art Associations’ CAA Reviewsthe Journal of Global South StudiesRevista de Estudios Hispánicos; and Revista Iberoamericana.

In 2022-23, she received one of JMU’s Inaugural Faculty Fellow awards, and in 2018, she was awarded both JMU’s Madison Scholar Award and Edna Schaeffer Award.

She has been a keynote or invited speaker at universities in eight countries and presented papers in English, French and Spanish. She has also delivered papers at the annual conferences of the College Art Association, the French Colonial History Society, the International Federation for Theater Research, the Modernist Studies Association, Women in French, as well as various non-reoccurring conferences, such as the Winthrop-King Institute for Contemporary French and Francophone Studies, Florida State University.  

Dr. Shanahan has published 15 peer-reviewed articles, catalog essays and other writings. Her most recent article, “The Battle for Hearts and Minds: The Nogent Mosque during World War I,” appears in a special issue of African Arts (fall 2019).

Other articles have appeared in Konsthistorisk Tidskrift, the International Journal for Art and Design Education, the Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, Cinema Studies, and Michigan Feminist Studies.  She has also contributed to various anthologies, exhibition catalogs and encyclopedias:  Patronage, Spectacle and the Stage, edited by Irene Eynat-Confino and Eva Sormova, 87-97 (Prague:  Theatre Institute, 2006); Democracy and Culture in the Transatlantic World, edited by Daniel Silander, 199-207 (Växjo, Sweden: Växjo Univ. Press, 2005); Den Maskulina mystiken (The Masculine Mystery), edited by Anna Lena Lindberg (Lund, Sweden:  Studentlitteratur, 2002) (in Swedish).

Before coming to JMU, Dr. Shanahan taught art history and women’s studies courses at SUNY Oswego, where she directed the women’s studies program and a SUNY-wide French exchange program.  Before entering academia, she worked as a lawyer at the Securities and Exchange Commission and as a grants writer for the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles. Dr. Shanahan served as associate director of the JMU Honors Program from 2004-2012.

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